[Malcolm] Gladwell actually did give a talk, in 2004, at an academic conference devoted to decision-making. “Some people were outraged by the simplification,” remembers one attendee, who likes Gladwell’s work. Someone stood up and asked if he should be more careful about citing sources.In reply, Gladwell offered another anecdote. A while back, he’d found out that the playwright Bryony Lavery’s award-winning play, Frozen, cribbed quotes from one of his stories. Though he might have sued Lavery for plagiarism, Gladwell concluded that, no, the definition of plagiarism was far too broad. The important thing is not to pay homage to the source material but to make it new enough to warrant the theft. Lavery’s appropriation wasn’t plagiarism but a tribute. “I thought it was a terrible answer,” says the attendee. “If there was ever an answer that was about rationalization, this was it.”
Gladwell actually has a point. Bach recycled his own work for The Well-Tempered Klavier, and borrowed some themes from Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer. Bach certainly made what he wrote new enough to warrant the borrowing. But in Bach's day originality was not main point of art.